How to Tackle a Tough Conversation

In last week’s webinar on stewarding your company culture in uncertain times, one participant asked about how they should go about talking to a colleague who was violating the company’s culture or non-negotiables. Regardless of your personality or communication style, here are some helpful guidelines when confronting a teammate or peer.

Say the right thing. First, be mindful of what you plan to say. Don’t accuse or call names – but don’t be afraid to call a colleague out respectfully. Say something like, “Accountability is one of our non-negotiables. We really need you to be accountable to getting your part of the project done by the end of the week like we agreed.”

Say it the right way. We can say the right thing in the wrong way and really damage a relationship. Pay attention to your tone, facial expressions, and body language. If what you say always seems to be taken the wrong way, ask a trusted co-worker for input. I’ve worked with teammates who were completely unaware their body language added a demeaning tone to their conversations.

Say it at the right time. I would normally avoid calling out a colleague in the middle of a department meeting, but I also wouldn’t wait a full week until our next one-on-one to have a serious conversation. Pick a time and place where you can have a necessary conversation while the issue is still fresh. The more proactively you address serious issues, the easier they are to resolve.

Say it for the right reasons. We address culture and non-negotiable violations because we care about our employees’ growth and development, and we take our responsibility of stewarding the company culture VERY seriously. We don’t confront employees because of our mood, or because we enjoy our authority, or for any other reason beyond what’s best for the individual, the team, and the organization.

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